McClure retires after two decades at Spalding

Tori Murden McClure, who retired as Spalding University’s president at the end of June, was photographed in the Third Street Academic Center where her office was located. McClure served at Spalding since 2004, she’d been at the helm since 2010. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Reflecting on two decades of service to Spalding University, Tori Murden McClure said she’s retiring with pride in the university’s growth and confidence in its future.

McClure retired as president of Spalding at the end of June. She served at the school, founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1814, since 2004. Her presidency began in 2010.  

McClure said Spalding is where it is today because of the work of many individuals.

“I’ve been lucky to work with dedicated folks who care about the mission. It’s driven by a unity of spirit. You can’t make a transformation like this by yourself,” she said. “I look at what’s left to do instead of where we came from, but if I pause and look at where we came from, it’s crazy.”

In 2004, when McClure joined Spalding as vice president of external relations, enrollment management and student affairs, the school was facing a financial crisis. It was millions of dollars in debt, according to the school.  

Under her presidency, Spalding paid off $16 million in debt and grew its endowment from $7 million to more than $30 million. The campus also nearly doubled in size, adding nine buildings and creating 12 acres of green space, including a 7.4-acre Legacy Fields athletic complex located a few blocks west of Spalding. 

“To be proud of money is not who I am,” McClure said in an interview in late June. What is important, she said, is “the freedom to not be in debt.” 

McClure said she knew it would be a difficult road when she accepted the role as Spalding’s president.

“There were many moments when I thought we wouldn’t make it,” she said. “I’m very proud of what Spalding has achieved and what it is. I feel such joy about that.”

McClure said she believes education is the antidote to any ills in society. And she invested heavily in her own education.

She earned a master’s degree in writing from Spalding in 2005, a juris doctor from the University of Louisville’s School of Law in 1995, a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University in 1998 and a bachelor’s in psychology from Smith College in 1985. 

“It’s how you counter all the ills of the world,” said McClure of education.

For that reason, she expanded the school’s academic offerings. In 2018, Spalding launched its criminal justice studies program with a focus on restorative justice. In 2020, the school started offering a doctoral degree in social work as well as a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. 

When she became president, McClure vowed to make a difference in an education system that, she said, can lead from school to incarceration. Since then, McClure said she believes Spalding has done more than most schools to “interrupt” the “school-to-prison pipeline.” 

“We educate the people working in the prison. We educate the people working with those who are addicted. We educate the teachers who keep young people in school who have a tremendously traumatic background,” she said. “We work with the people who interrupt that path. We teach the people who interrupt that path, and we’re not ashamed of it. It’s that sort of thing that makes it an honor to serve as president here.” 

McClure was Spalding’s first non-Catholic president; she was raised in the Presbyterian faith. She struggled with accepting the presidency, she noted, thinking that it wouldn’t be “morally correct” since she wasn’t Catholic. 

This played a role, however, in how she approached her work at the university.

“In some ways, because I’m not Catholic, I’ve been extra respectful of the Catholic tradition and history,” she said. “I’d never knowingly violate the tenets of the Catholic Church.”

The respect she has for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth ultimately led her to accept the role.

“I read their history and I liked them and thought that they (the foundresses of Spalding) would have liked me,” she said.

Over the years, she developed a close relationship with the Sisters of Charity, counting interactions with them among some of the “greatest highlights” of her time at Spalding. 

McClure said she felt at home walking the halls of the Motherhouse on the Nazareth, Ky., campus knowing “I could have easily been a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.”

“When I had moments of doubt, it was easy to reach out to the Sisters. It made it easier,” she said. “I inherited something very precious. I dusted it off and polished it up and now I’m handing it off. It never belonged to me.”

The search for Spalding’s 11th president is underway, and according to the Office of the President, the board of trustees hopes to name McClure’s successor later this year. 

Until then, Dr. Joanne Berryman will serve as interim president. Berryman, who is retired, joined the university in 2009 as dean of Spalding’s Kosair Charities College of Health and Natural Sciences. She was appointed provost in 2015, according to a press release from Spalding.  

In her retirement, McClure said she’ll take time to learn new things. Her husband, Charles King McClure III, has encouraged her to take time away, she said in her retirement address during an Honored Guest Reception on the school’s campus May 30. 

“Whatever is next, I want to learn to sail, read more books, spend more time with friends, and enjoy more of everything,” she said.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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1 Comment

  1. says: Hilda Lobo

    congratulations McClure, I am proud of you and your achievements at Spalding. I was there as a student when you took over. As I read the note I feel very happy and proud to be part of Spalding University. May God bless you.

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